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[[quoteright:350:[[Anime/MagicalGirlLyricalNanoha http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/instant-runes_rsz_mlgn_1195.png]]]]

Traditional HermeticMagic often required creation of [[GeometricMagic elaborate pentacles, pentagrams, magic circles, runes, etc.]] before a spell could be cast. These would typically be scratched into the ground, or made with special materials. This takes too long to be practical in a fight or immediate crisis, but it does [[RuleOfCool look really cool]].

Many works get around this by having special effects do the work. As soon as the mage [[CallingYourAttacks calls out the attack]], any required circles, designs and written magical incantations appear glowing in the air. This is common for Hermetic-flavored {{Magical Girl}}s.

Either these designs are prepared by the mage beforehand, or whatever force the mage serves under contract does it for them. But this is mostly speculation on our part, as it's rarely, if ever, shown how it's actually done. See: SimplifiedSpellcasting.

In later years, almost always done in CG to keep an intricate look.

Many video games using magic have it, including {{RPG}}s and RealTimeStrategy games. Increasingly common in modern fantasy webcomics and in the artwork of 3rd edition d20 ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'', probably inspired by computer games and anime. Glowing magic circles and mystic runes floating in the air around the spellcaster look so much cooler in a visual medium than a wizard waving a staff around.

For the Sci-Fi cousins, see TronLines and MatrixRainingCode. See also SphereOfPower. [[CoolGate Magic portals]] very frequently have InstantRunes to show how magical they are.

----
!!Examples

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Anime/MagicalGirlLyricalNanoha'' does this frequently. Interestingly, while [[MagicWand Intelligent Device]] helps, it's shown in the manga that those circles must be constructed mentally. If you don't have the [[FormulaicMagic math]] right; the magic won't work.
* ''Manga/CardcaptorSakura'' shows it whenever Sakura uses her magic to seal a card, or use one.
* ''Manga/MahouSenseiNegima''. For the most part these don't even require prior construction, but a significant aversion to this occurs in the Magic World Tournament finale, when Negi [[spoiler:activates a massive set of runes out of nowhere to absorb Rakan's power, and Rakan realizes with a shock that Negi had written them in the ground unnoticed while in his FragileSpeedster mode much earlier in the fight]]. The inscriptions in the outer circle pictured above are in Armenian. Negima also features an aversion in the Pactio circles, which must be drawn by hand.
* All the magic in ''ScrappedPrincess''.
* ''{{Slayers}}'': Anime only, and then only with some larger spells. Averted in the novels, where Lina mentions that [[VancianMagic she does have to prepare spells in advance, but can then cast them later with just an incantation]]. Also, any magic circles that show up have been drawn (or in Seyruun's case, ''built'') by someone.
* ''TsubasaReservoirChronicle'' has both this and a variation. Fay's magic seems to work by him literally writing it out on the air with his staff, though he can use other forms.
* ''Anime/DotHackSign'' when a wavemaster uses their powers.
* ''Manga/{{Naruto}}''
** Kanji have been known to appear on fingers (Jiraya, when removing Orochimaru's seal that was on top of the demon fox seal on Naruto's belly) or hands (Yamato, when supressing Naruto's fox demon transformation) of a person performing certain types of jutsu.
** In the anime, a Taoist Bagua symbol appears when Neji Hyuga performs his Eight Trigrams, Sixty-Four Palms technique.
** The pattern that forms on the ground whenever Naruto ''et al'' perform a summoning jutsu does fit this trope. But it's a variation, since the pattern always forms on the surface of whatever Naruto puts his hand on (usually the ground).
** In the second ''Naruto'' movie, one of the characters uses existing runes on the ground to summon [[spoiler:a black hole]].
* Subverted in ''MahoujinGuruGuru'', where "Guru Guru Magic" works mainly in summoning creatures through drawings in circles. While these drawings can be very simple, Kukuri (the little, naive Guruguru witch) does them wrong more often than you expect. And more often the summoning ''still'' works with wrong circles, displaying nonsensical monsters and gag devices. Finally, Kukuri figures it how to invent new spells. Well, not so simple.
* An interesting [[InvertedTrope inversion]] is made with ''Manga/FullmetalAlchemist'': alchemy, here seen as {{Magitek}} and dependent on the energies of the earth, requires the alchemist to draw the runes beforehand before attempting any effort. However, this does not stop the alchemist from bringing permanent copies of it whenever they need to use it. Subverted in the film of the first anime (Conqueror of Shamballa), where a certain character is able to perform alchemy via remotely cast instant runes.
* ''Manga/GaRei'': The Tsuchimiyas' Spirit-eater Byakuei appears from a circular seal which hovers behind the summoner's back.
* ''LightNovel/ShakuganNoShana'': Unrestricted Spells tend to manifest these, and their form varies between casters. The most common forms are ribbons and circles.
* ''Franchise/{{Disgaea}}'' features these in the OP, the ED, and the eyecatch, as well as within the show itself. A few attacks in the games utilize them, too.
* The Seal of Orichalcos in ''Anime/YuGiOh''.
* A primitive and weirdly non-magical example: In ''King of Braves GaoGaiGar'', when the titular HumongousMecha uses his "Protect Shade" power to defend himself, the averted lasers/energy bolts trace out a pentacle-shaped path in the air in front of him rather than being directly reflected.
** This is apparently inherent to the Protect Shade technology. The heroes reverse engineer it to develop their base's shield system, and the "PS generators" do the same thing.
* One of the first things you see in ''[[Main/FateStayNight Fate/stay night]]'' is Tohsaka Rin summoning her Servant with a pretty red glowing rune/incantation circle rising from the floor, through her body and above her head (though this is subverted in the original game, where she does, in fact, prepare the circle beforehand).
** This is actually a subversion in the anime too, as the circle is shown drawn on the floor and does not rise up past her until after she begins the summoning ritual.
** Played straight with Rider, in using her Noble Phantasm "Bridle of Chivalry". The best example would be in the ''Fate'' route, where a spell circle is formed from her own ''blood''.
** Also subverted in [[{{Nasuverse}} the verse]] with runic magecraft. One major drawback is that it must be somehow inscribed on the target. Two characters shown the use of runes in combat: one drew the symbol in mid-air with cigarette smoke and overlaid it on the target, while the other carried around a talon to physically carve them out.
* In the ''{{Hellsing}}'' TV series, Alucard does this once, causing a massive, glowing pentagram to hover over the Hellsing mansion. It's the only cool CGI effect in the whole thing.
** He does one better when he makes the pentagram so big that it not only covers all of London, but is visible from low Earth orbit.
* Dr. Muraki in ''YamiNoMatsuei'' uses at one point an intricate magic circle that rises from the floor as pure light. However, it is still linked to a simpler circle he apparently prepared beforehand, and that can be destroyed by shooting the glowing gems at the points of the pentagram.
* Both played straight and averted in ''Manga/AhMyGoddess'' depending on the skill/power of the caster. The goddesses themselves can instantly generate smaller, spell circles but still need to manually draw larger ones, more powerful entities like Urd's mother [[TheDevil Hild]] can easily generate complex spell circles with little effort.
* Abe no Seimei's modus operandi in ''New GetterRobo'', for barriers and pain spells and everything in between. Sometimes, he takes the trouble to trace his pentagrams with his finger, but mostly he just sticks out his hand and they appear. And as the war between him and Getter goes on, he sometimes doesn't have to expend ''that'' much effort.
* ''SoulEater'' has one with [[spoiler: [[EldritchAbomination the Kishin.]]]] When he's going to do his beam attacks, a rune circle appears in front of him.
* ''ToAruMajutsuNoIndex'':
** Averted with Stiyl. He carries around cards or photocopies of the runes needed for his spells and has to strategically place them around a place, but he can move them with his mind.
** [[spoiler: Index]] plays this straight when casting an actual spell. This is meant to show just how much power she has at her disposal, to be able to form runes and symbols out of light and air is the mark of the highest level of magician.
** The angel encountered during "Angel Fall" takes this UpToEleven when it uses a spell: it instantly turns day to night, the moon's phase to full, and ''rearranges the stars'' to form the runes and designs it needs to cast spells. Not for nothing are angels considered among the most powerful beings in the Indexverse.
* Happens all the time in the Hentai series ''Bible Black''.
* Satella and [[spoiler:Fiore]] have these appear around them when they use their "jewel summoning" powers in ''ChronoCrusade''.
* In the anime adaptation of ''Manga/FairyTail'', most uses of magic cause a magic circle to appear near the caster, most often around the hands. Phantom Lord's walking fortress makes a really huge example of this, one used for casting [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast "Abyss Break"]]. Unlike the instantly-appearing magic circles, this one is drawn into the air by the fortress' giant arms, which allows the entire attack to be aborted since the spell couldn't be launched before the circle was complete. Also, there are wizards who specialize in rune magic, which is written in the air to do whatever it's supposed to at the time do. [[HermeticMagic Given the amount of time that these generally take to cast]], they're more suited to laying traps, rather than having any real direct combat use.
* The Siestas in ''UminekoNoNakuKoroNi'' have FormulaicMagic equations and Greek text appear out of nowhere when they're using magic to shoot people.
* In ''Manga/MagicKnightRayearth'' Ascot uses runes whenever he's [[SummonMagic summoning one of his monsters]].
* Katsumi Liqueur ''SilentMoebius'' uses runes when casting more powerful spells.
* ''StrikeWitches'' has these (as magic circles) appear as shields and when the Strike Units start up. Miyafuji's circle is a little under [[BiggerIsBetter 3 football fields]]. In radius.
* ''Anime/TheLegendOfTheLegendaryHeroes'', only in the anime. The original novels explain that part of casting a spell involves literally rearranging magical particles in the air, thus creating the appearance of drawing a magic circle in midair. Though some people are really, really fast at it.
* ''Manga/KatekyoHitmanReborn'' has shown this with [[spoiler: the Simon Family]] unleashing their Ring Weapons and later with [[spoiler: the Vongola Gear weapons]]. Apparently they're made of Dying Will Flames.
* ''[[ZeroSevenGhost 07-Ghost]]'' uses InstantRunes as a kind of battle magic. And a whip-like weapon. And transport. And doll-crafting. And praying. There is quite a lot of it to be found in the anime.
** Sort of. The manga explains that the letters and words that appear are a reflection of the will of the caster; for example in one scene two characters communicate underwater by spelling out what they want to say.
* Happens occasionally in {{Arago}}.
* Magic circles appear sporadically in ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica''. Most obvious is with Sayaka, who has, rather than runes, ''musical notes'' appear. The [[CypherLanguage actual runes]] in the series don't fit the trope, as they're more of a weird background detail.
* In ''RosarioToVampire'', the Board Chairman sometimes uses these.
** In later chapters, some of [[spoiler:Tsukune's new powers]] also involve these. Apparently, "youjutsu" (a variety of magic/KiAttacks specific to {{youkai}}), which the Chairman specializes in and which [[spoiler:Tsukune]] recently was trained in by the Chairman's own mentor, often involve these.
* ''Literature/BraveStory'': Mitsuru produces one in the movie by tapping his staff on the ground.
* ''DigimonTamers'' combines this with GeometricMagic for Beelzemon's final epic-level attack. He draws the star in the air with his gun, then the circle appears around it, and then even more markings appear right before he begins firing through the symbol.
* ''Campione'' invokes this with much of the magic cast in the series.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Averted in ''ComicBook/MadameXanadu'' by... Madame Xanadu herself, while her magic circle is quite impressive and it shines, she has to draw it by hand... with a knife.
* InAWorld where the JusticeLeagueOfAmerica are all powerful magic users (Earth-33 of the Creator/DCComics {{Multiverse}}), Superman's spells manifest as InstantRunes ... in ''Kryptonian''.
* The UrExample of this trope may be a 1975 DoctorFate story by Creator/WalterSimonson (from [[http://www.mycomicshop.com/search?q=%22Walt%20Simonson%22&qloc=N&TID=179751 issue #9]] of the try-out title ''1st Issue Special''), where, rather than the simple glowy effects and occasional Ditko Ribbons of previous appearances, the magics of Fate and his {{Mummy}} adversary manifest as ''glowing ankhs and hieroglyphics''. Almost every subsequent DoctorFate artist has used the ankh motif for his magics.
* Simonson may also be the artist who first depicted the [[NewGods Anti-Life Equation]] as glowing glyphs orbiting the head of its possessor as a halo.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* Though the circles used for demon summoning in DavidEddings' ''{{Belgariad}}'' and ''Malloreon'' are [[GeometricMagic traced by hand]] (usually with a big stick), particularly potent sorcerers can hold them stable whilst, for example, walking on a storm-tossed ocean...
** There's also one who did the same on a fast flowing river, and didn't ''notice'' that the runes had just been carried away by the water, and proceeded to summon a demon without any protection.
* Averted in the ''SwordOfTruth'' series, at least early on. When Darken Rahl's doing an epic-level spell, he draws his magic runes by hand. It takes hours.
* In Diane Duane's ''YoungWizards'' series, a lot of wizardry requires diagrams drawn out in the wizardly Speech. At first, these are mostly drawn out in the dirt, on paper, etc., but as the characters become more proficient, they can learn to conjure glowing diagrams (or sometimes 3D models) in the air, which can be stored in their manuals and later pulled out to be glowing diagrams in the air again. And one character uses a computer program to plot out and save spell diagrams.
** [[JustifiedTrope Justified]] in that magic is explicitly stated to be highly complex ''statements'' in an actual, speakable language - akin to programming code for reality itself.
* The [[MargaretWeis Weis]]/Hickman series ''Literature/TheDeathGateCycle'' features 'instant' glowing runes in the air when Greater Magic is being worked. They do key off of movements, song, and (for the Patryn) pre-existing runes tattood onto the body, however.
* Averted in Creator/PatriciaCWrede's ''Literature/MairelonTheMagician'', and more explicitly in ''Magician's Ward'', as Mairelon explains that the use of most magic requires runes prepared in advance.
* Harry Dresden in ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'' (sometimes averted). In the books, runes and circles are explained as not actually required to perform magic, but make magic easier to use by offering a sort of focus or map for the magic user to concentrate their power with. Where this trope comes in is that a practitioner can simply ''imagine'' the runes and circles he needs if necessary, but it is difficult to maintain while performing the actual magic.
** In addition, Bob likes to draw runes in the air, though these don't do anything.
* In ''{{Elantris}}'', though they don't appear automatically, Elantrians can "draw" [=AonDor=] runes in midair to activate their magic,
* In TanyaHuff's ''The Enchantment Emporium'' the characters with magical abilities are able to trace or sketch charms very quickly with their fingertips onto any surface, even the skin of another person. These charms can be used for anything from protection to healing to a form of mind control. Some characters are able to trace charms in the air and one character is able to mark people from a distance with charms using MagicMusic.
* In ''Discworld/TheLightFantastic'' the Great Spells materialise as glowing words in the air when cast. Twoflower, a non-wizard, can look at them and deduce that one word was pronounced incorrectly, because it's ''the wrong colour''.
* Averted by Creator/BarbaraHambly; none of her characters have short cuts, they have to laboriously draw out every line and character every time, then scrub the floor and draw them all over again the next time. However, if you are a Mage you do get the glowing, if not you just see two old men drawing and muttering.
* The trenuses in ''Literature/ToughMagic'' use [[GeometricMagic spell-diars]] that are formed through magic, to make a more powerful spell than just by chanting or triggering one.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:LiveActionTV]]
* Everyone in ''Series/MahouSentaiMagiranger'' and ''Series/PowerRangersMysticForce'', with Wolzard/Koragg being perhaps the most obvious example.
* Subverted in ''Series/SamuraiSentaiShinkenger''/''Series/PowerRangersSamurai'' in that the protagonists have to write out (or text in the Gold Ranger's case) the kanji all of their summons in the proper stroke order. For example, the second episode of ''Shinkenger'' begins with Chiaki failing at summoning blades of grass because he's writing the kanji (草, learned in first grade in Japan) wrong. However in the first episode it only takes two seconds for Takeru to magically summon a horse, a kanji that consists of ten strokes (馬, a second grade kanji).
* Notably averted in ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'', in which the frequently used runic circles are always drawn laboriously by hand. (Sam and Dean would carry around a sheet or something with a demon-trap painted on it, but it'd be easy enough to tear a sheet open.)
* Played straight and then subverted in ''Series/{{Angel}}'', where a giant pentagram on the floor is used in a couple of attempts to connect to a Hell dimension, but also gets to be a BrickJoke about how they have a GIANT BLOOD RED PENTAGRAM covering the floor of their business's lobby.
* ''Series/KamenRiderKiva'': Kamen Rider Dark Kiva can summon his symbol, which is a bat-shape, to attack other people.
** ''Series/KamenRiderWizard'' features the titular hero using such runes to perform pretty much every ability in his repertoire.
* ''Series/{{Fringe}}'' of all shows has recently introduced "stasis runes" as powerful traps, utilized by none other than [[spoiler:William Bell]]. September remarks that this technology should be considerably ahead of them.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* The mages of the IronKingdoms have these appear around their arms while casting (or around their weapons while channelling magic through them). Characters in the IKRPG can learn to identify a spell just from the runes that appear as it's being cast (one of the pre-made characters for the quickstart rules, the Arcanist/Investigator Eilish Garrity, has this skill).
[[/folder]]

[[folder:VideoGames]]
* The X-Box game ''Nightcaster: Defeat the Darkness'' uses rune attacks for large-area elemental spells. Each rune flavor has a unique look - ''Fire'' magic symbols are primitive and tribal, ''Water'' runes appear as sigils and seals, ''Dark'' magic uses ornamental stamping patterns, and ''Light'' runes look like astral or zodiacal charts.
* The RealTimeStrategy game ''VideoGame/WarcraftIII'' has certain spells manifest this in addition to the usual fireworks.
* Warlocks' demon-summoning spells in ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' do this, as do the hearthstones characters can use to teleport back to their home locations.
** Warlocks also have a spell that generates one of these in the ground that allows the caster to teleport directly to it.
** Most area effect abilities of bosses potent enough that a player should be dodging them create large, well-outlined areas on the ground, presumably to help people know the exact edges of their effects. As runes are clean and precise, they are used very commonly for this purpose (unless the attack is not actually a magical spell). In certain fights, however, runes on the ground denote beneficial effects and you're ''supposed'' to stand in them whenever possible.
** A Mage's Arcane Explosion or Arcane Blast spell will leave a rune circle on its target.
** A rune circle as a targeting reticle only visible to players is used for precision placement of targetted area-of-effect abilities.
** Summoning another player will cause an array of runes to rotate around your character.
** Many Monk abilities manifest with glowing runes floating in the air as well.
** Ultimately, mages got an optional ability flat out called [[http://www.wowhead.com/spell=116011 "Rune of Power"]], which increases the potency of mages' spells as long as they stay within its boundaries.
* ''{{League of Legends}}'' uses runes as cast targets for skillshot spells, sometimes with more particles and glowing effects than the spell they are the target for.
* The ''VideoGame/{{StarCraft|I}}'' Protoss's warp systems no longer look like wobbly portals in ''VideoGame/{{StarCraft II}}'', but rather have neat geometrical effects, with diagrams and strange alien symbols all around them. And the Mothership's Vortex power has mathematical graphs as well as the classic "squared" 2D representation of 3D space. It's never clear if these are holograms, or if space simply works that way. The effects could well enough be the alien equivalent of holographic "'''STOP''' signs", that are projected around warp rifts and vortices.
* ''Franchise/FinalFantasy'' games have started doing this with summoning magic; ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'' is a prime over-the-top example, while ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXI'' does it in a relatively low-key fashion. ''VideoGame/CrisisCore'' also features this when [[spoiler:Genesis]] does his Limit Break.
** Final Fantasy bosses do it too. The final SequentialBoss of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'' calls up a massive, personal sigil of flame in the sky for the last segment of the fight. And ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII's'' Sephiroth summons a supernova with ''physics equations,'' of all things. (Though since physics and astronomy go hand in hand, there is a certain logic to this.)
** In ''Advent Children'', runes can be briefly seen when Kadaj summons Bahamut SIN.
** [[GentlemanThief Balthier's]] quickening,'' 'Element of Treachery' ''in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIIRevenantWings'' uses these. ''To turn him into a '''meteor'''.''
** Edge in the ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIV'' remake for the DS shows these when he uses ninjutsu.
** In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIX,'' Freya's best Dragon skill uses this, despite not being "magic" (as it can be used on the AntiMagic continent). There's also Zidane and his Dyne attacks. Almost all of them result in runes appearing, whether they simply signal some huge effect or are the weapons themselves. No circles, though, just the runes. And of course, they are in full force for his appearance in ''VideoGame/DissidiaFinalFantasy''.
** ''VideoGame/DissidiaFinalFantasy'':
*** There are various attacks involving InstantRunes, but by far the most notable is [[VideoGame/FinalFantasyII The Emperor's]] [[ColonyDrop Starfall]]. During the charging animation, the runes appear and then expand and grow in complexity as the attack nears completion. [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpYR_PeF2ew ''Very'' cool to watch.]]
*** [[VideoGame/FinalFantasyIX Zidane]] uses InstantRunes for his attacks, and one of them, Free Energy, takes the trope to the logical extreme: Free Energy creates a rune of energy that explodes, and is almost ''literally'' instantaneous.
*** [[VideoGame/FinalFantasyX Yuna]] uses InstantRunes for basically every attack, as she [[SummonMagic summons her Aeons]] from them.
** ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII'' features InstantRunes for some of the Eidolon summons. Some of them also combine this with SphereOfPower. And each party member also has a variation of their unique magical circle in their Crystarium System.
** In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXII'' [[SummonMagic Chaos]]' LimitBreak includes creating a giant mandala, of things.
* Western videogame example: ''EternalDarkness'' for the [=GameCube=] does this every time you cast a spell, complete with columns of light shooting from the InstantRunes and an ominous, supernatural voice (that varies based on spell alignment) pronouncing the runes.
* A similar circle to the ''[[FateStayNight Fate/stay night]]'' example appears around the Pioneer II after it comes out of hyperspace (or whatever method it uses for space travel) in ''VideoGame/PhantasyStarOnline'', closely followed by a similar circle from Pioneer I on the ground, and then a beam linking both. According to narration, this was all part of a communication uplink. The circle also shows up whenever your Mag uses its LimitBreak photon ability.
** [[spoiler:The final fight against [[PhantasyStar Dark Falz]] (on Hard mode and above)]] is fought on a giant circle made of InstantRunes that the boss attacks you from the center of.
** ''PhantasyStarUniverse'' also features these magic circles, in places. However, in both cases, this is justified by the setting's (literally in one case) DoingInTheWizard. All 'magic' in the online PhantasyStar games is technology derived, with the resultant runes almost certainly created by the electronics on-board the casting device.
* In ''VideoGame/GalaxyAngel'', Tequila casts spells this way, even in space from her ship, where they appear bigger than it is.
* The titular Door in ''VideoGame/PaperMarioTheThousandYearDoor'' starts instant-runing whenever you return a PlotCoupon.
** Same goes for its sequel, ''VideoGame/SuperPaperMario'', when Pure Hearts are locked in place.
* The Cybuster's "Akashic Buster" attack in ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWars'' involves creating a circle and hexagram in midair, before invoking a flaming phoenix from it and merging with it to slam into the enemy. The Lord of Elemental remake takes this Up to Eleven. EVERY unit now summons instant runes for their final attack except Lune's. The [[VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsAlpha Ryu-Ko-Oh]] does this with Chinese-style trigrams. The [[VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsNEO Alsignos, Shigzarl]] AND [[spoiler: Larva]] does when invoking their attacks.
* Shion's "Spell Ray" LimitBreak in ''VideoGame/{{Xenosaga}}'' episode one involves creating a set of runes in midair, ''loading'' them into her weapon ([[ImprobableWeaponUser a huge mechanical arm]]), and firing a {{BFG}}-level blast from one of these. Similarly chaos's Lunar Seal attack draws runes in the air, sets them on fire and then blasts them at the enemy.
* In the ''StarOcean'' games, this is an actual science, referred to as Symbology (or Heraldry, or Runology, depending on the game). The distance from the rune to the caster affects the strength of the spell, so most casters tattoo the symbols on their bodies. The [[StarOcean3 third game]] deals with three children who were [[{{Tykebomb}} experimented on]] to have the runes inscribed in their chromosomes, giving them access to various abilities which should allow them to transcend their dimension. The other three games have characters with genetic runes as a trait of their species. Although one character doesn't take advantage of it.
* Averted in the story-within-a-story of ''[[VideoGame/WildArms1 Wild ARMs: Alter Code F]],'' where we are explicitly being told that the heroine is drawing the runes into the air with a finger.
* In ''SuperSmashBros Brawl'', instant runes appear as part of the "warp magic" that makes up Marth's and Ike's stage entrances. Also, [[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTwilightPrincess Triforce Slash]] and [[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTheWindWaker Toon Triforce Slash]] also use images of the Triforce rendered in the respective styles in leiu of runic symbols.
* In ''VideoGame/TalesOfSymphonia'', any character that can cast magic causes a magic circle to appear beneath their feet as they cast. This is especially visible with Sheena, who creates four magic circles, and a giant triangle about 4 times as large as the other magic circles when she summons anything bigger then Corrine. Also, the spells "Photon" and its dark equivalent, "Dark Sphere", trap the enemy in circles of appropriately coloured InstantRunes.
** ''VideoGame/TalesOfTheAbyss'' must have won some kind of award for most Instant Runes in a video game ever. They're in everything, for aesthetics when casting magic to being part of structures to being an integral gameplay element; every spell in the game leaves a 'Field of Fonons' near it's target, and these can be used to power up attacks.
** In ''VideoGame/TalesOfPhantasia'', casters would spawn elaborate magic circles from their hands as the screen froze when their spell resolved. There were even different circles for Arche's Magic, Klarth's Summoning, and Mint's Healing. If you look closely, some versions also have a circle pattern appear on the ground when Cless uses Shugohoujin, which creates a wall-like pillar of damaging light.
** Just about every single scene in ''VideoGame/TalesOfVesperia'' that involves Rita and blastia, or Rita and spellcasting results in instant runes.
* Certain boss characters in ''CityOfHeroes'' have an ability to curse player characters, halving their endurance pool. They do this by firing a magic bullet at the target, which when it hits produces an instant rune at the victim's feet as they're cursed.
** Heroes themselves gain a Rune of Warding of their own, a temporary power gained from a storyarc that is especially effective against certain magical creatures. [[RuleOfCool And looks awesome.]]
** ''CityOfVillains'' Masterminds have two powers which enhance the abilities of their pets. For the Ninja Matermind the visual effect for the 'upgrades' is large, glowing kanji appearing under the feet of the pet being buffed.
** With ''Going Rogue'', Masterminds got access to the Demon Summoning powerset, which uses this trope to, well, [[CaptainObvious summon demons]]. You even get to pick what color your magic circles are going to be!
** There's also InstantRunes costume change animations, the Mystic Fortune power, costume auras... point is, the devs like their shiny runes. It's a superhero game; they're entitled.
* Warping in more recent ''Franchise/FireEmblem'' games cause InstantRunes to appear. Especially in Fire Emblem 9, is this very visible.
** The critical for Shamans in Fire Emblem 7 involves a magic circle being drawn under the character's feet while charging the spell. Criticals for Valkyries and Mage Knights involve creating runes in the air around their hands. Runes appear in the air whenever Sages attack.
** Criticals and Flare for Arch Sages in Radiant Dawn make layered runes.
** ''All'' magic users in ''[[VideoGame/FireEmblemAwakening Awakening]]'' conjure magic circles around themselves when casting spells.
* The ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'' series is big on magic circles, though the amount and complexity depends on the exact game. ''Embodiment of Scarlet Devil'' had them appear when you killed enemies, while later games tend to limit them to spellcards (in which they're absurdly huge). Some of these circles are actually funcional: your girl is permanently surrounded with a circle that indicates your grazing hitbox, holding down Shift causes a magical symbol to appear on your girl with a dot that indicates your hitbox, ''Perfect Cherry Blossom'' has temporary invincibility indicated by a shrinking pentacle on a circle around your character, and the huge circle that surrounds the bosses during their spellcards shrinks as the expiration timer counts down.
* In ''VideoGame/BeyondGoodAndEvil'' having a teammate perform a special attack (which launches the enemy off the ground) followed by a stick attack causes floating runes to show up. The result causes the target to become a projectile.
* Many of the Monk's powers in ''VideoGame/DiabloIII'' manifest runes when used.
* ''VideoGame/{{Fable}}'' has the spells "Divine Fury" and "Unholy Wrath," the latter of which was referred to in ''WebAnimation/ZeroPunctuation'' as "Evil Pentagram Soul Suck Horror."
* ''VideoGame/HellgateLondon'' had a delicious sigil in motion forming the title screen.
* Ryudo, main hero from ''VideoGame/GrandiaII'', despite being swordsman, does that during his ultimate special by sticking his sword into ground.
* The magikoopas in ''SuperMarioBros'' fire a jumble of simple shapes at the player as a projectile.
* The Nameless One in ''PlanescapeTorment'', if the player follows a certain path, can gain the use of the AwesomeButImpractical spell "Rune of Torment", which carves itself into the ground before it goes off.
* ''Franchise/{{Castlevania}}'' is fond of this trope in general, having lots of occultish magic. Two notable examples would be the collectible runic glyphs in ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaOrderOfEcclesia'' and those in ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaDawnOfSorrow'' which the player must draw themselves with the DS stylus to activate.
* ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaDawnOfSorrow'' downplays this trope by actually making the player draw the rune, but this is only used in specific situations, and the game has Instant Runes elsewhere.
* In ''BattleForWesnoth'', the Scribe line of units from the [[GameMod user-created]] (and very well-done) faction Windsong use Instant Runes to attack. No projectiles or anything, the rune just appears over the scribe's head and the enemy mysteriously takes damage.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Persona 3}}'', fusing Personas places them on a rune configuration before combining them into a single entity.
** Also with the OneHitKO [[LightEmUp Hama]] and [[CastingAShadow Mudo]] spells; with Hama, several Ofudo surround the target, accompanied by a square of light and with Mudo, a circle of darkness and seemingly gibberish is drawn either on the ground or in the air.
** This is the method of summoning Personas in-battle in the first two games of the series, accompained by pillars of light.
* The FinalBattle of ''VideoGame/VagrantStory'' takes place on a magic circle that floats high above the [[spoiler:devastated Cathedral]].
** For that matter, a very early battle against a Dullahan has the animate armor slowly drag its sword across the ground, which creates an instantaneous magical circle around him.
** Also, in a video sequence early on in the game--as one enters the sanctum--Sydney is shown carving a circle of runes on the stone floor of an abandoned chapel, which he later activates to summon [[spoiler: the first big dragon]].
* In ''VideoGame/MeltyBlood'', Aoko Aozaki instantly creates [[http://img70.imageshack.us/img70/1294/1229960485203xf9.gif runes around her arm]] for her "Severe Break" Arc Drive.
* In ''VideoGame/SkiesOfArcadia'', each of the magical Moons has a crest assigned to them from the Old World. Naturally these crests appear whenever magic is cast.
* In the ''[[Franchise/DotHack .hack]]'' games, these appear both above the caster and near the target whenever magic is cast (either by a PC or by an enemy).
* Dizzy of ''GuiltyGear'' summons these when [[LetsGetDangerous she gets dangerous]]. Also, Chipp Zanuff averts this by drawing the lines of the pentagram of his OneHitKill move ''after'' the victim gets caught in it.
* In ''VideoGame/BreathOfFireIV'', most of Ryu's transformations into his dragon forms involves a semi-circular sphere enveloping him and his party, which was then decorated with runes.
* In the ''VideoGame/SamuraiShodown'' games, at least Amakusa (from the 3rd game onwards) and Mizuki can make rune-like images to attack.
* Igniz from ''VideoGame/TheKingOfFighters 2002: [[UpdatedRerelease Unlimited Match]]'' makes these appear below his opponent to start his ''Disintegrational Universe'' attack.
* Some characters in ''VideoGame/BlazBlueCalamityTrigger'' have attacks that manifest InstantRunes (such as Hakumen's counterattack ability); like Negi in the ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'' example, these seem to be visual conceits, usually no more visible to the actual characters than the lifebars at the top of the screen. [[spoiler: Then there's the attack of [[KillSat Nox Nyctores Gigant]] in the Story Mode.]]
* Most probably the only use in a sci-fi game that doesn't even use magic: ''AceOnline''. The spell [[PowerNullifier "Purify"]] is available to M-Gears after obtaining the rare Special/Elite Skill Opening Card. The activation animation is quite distinct: you suddenly gain an instant magic circle with a symbol on top, sending sparkles downward. Non-players assume it's a godly buff; players know it does the ''opposite''. No, it doesn't purify you or allies of negative status effects, it [[StatusBuffDispel nullifies all buffs and skills you have]], [[OhCrap including the that lets you do the]] MacrossMissileMassacre.
* In ''VideoGame/LufiaTheLegendReturns'', the visual effect for "holy" elemental attacks uses a simple form of this trope.
* Averted by the ''[[{{Suikoden}} Genso Suikoden]]'' series - while runes appear above the characters whenever they use magic or special abilities, the hermetic aspect of the runes is served by semi-permanently inscribing them on the character's bodies (almost always the back of the hand or forehead).
** In a further aversion, while casting and inscription on the body appear instant, actual rune creation is a long and arduous process that takes years to learn, producing a usable crystal for applying the created rune to a user. Screw-ups on the part of rune creators play a significant role in ''VideoGame/SuikodenI''[='s=] storyline.
* In ''VideoGame/DokaponKingdom'', any hero or villain who attempts to block magic will do so by conjuring an elaborate wall of runes between him and the caster.
* ''Videogame/MasterOfTheWind'' has these appear at characters' feet before they cast a spell. One of the side-effects of [[spoiler:Ketsu gaining wings]] is that he no longer has to deal with this delay, and this is commented on by other characters.
* ''KingdomHearts'' invokes this when using [[ThePowerOfFriendship Trinity]] [[LimitBreak Limit]]
* Averted by The Keeper faction of the ''VideoGame/{{Thief}}'' series in the form of glyphs. Glyph-magic and its associated language, even without considering the years of training required for use, require every glyph be painstakingly (literally, writing and reading these things ''hurts'' [[note]]and consumes the user, too - the Keepers' most advanced glyph-reader is a withered hag who [[spoiler:is revealed to be some thirty years old at ''most'']][[/note]]) written and read, making them basically useless for magic in combat. Rather, glyph magic concerns scyring, and more subtle and insidious effects.
* In ''Videogame/TheLegendOfZeldaTwilightPrincess'', The Mirror of Twilight forms Instant Runes after it is repaired, with the bonus of CoolGate. The Time Gate in ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaSkywardSword'' does exactly the same when it's reactivated in the Sealed Grounds.
* ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins'' has a line of 'glyph' spells which summon glowing purple sigils at the target point. They essentially serve as magical StandardStatusEffect landmines.
* During the Sinjoh Ruins event in ''[[VideoGame/PokemonGoldandSilver Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver Versions]]'', there is a prominent pattern on the floor of the Mystri/Triad Stage chamber. A different pattern is featured during the Google Images montage when Arceus creates a new member of Sinnoh's Dragon Trio.
* The standard ''[[GameMaker RPG Maker]] XP'' sprite set features instant pentagrams as the default spellcasting animation. As a result, they are used in most RPG Maker games.
* ''TheWitcher''s cast sigils much simpler than full runes, but [[AcceptableBreaksFromReality for the sake of gameplay]] they're cast instantly in mid-air.
* The color-group-matching game [[http://store.steampowered.com/app/37800/ QuantZ]] has Instant Runes all over its backgrounds and transition animation, without any particular explanation.
* ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim Skyrim]]'' features spells which create circular runes that act as landmine-type traps.
* ''GuildWars2'' features these in a few places. Elementalist Glyph skills' animations include drawing a glowing symbol in the air, while Guardian Symbol skills (and Smite) create glowing runic circles on the ground, either by magical casting or smashing your weapon into the ground. Necromancer Mark and Well skills also create symbols on the ground, these ones glowing vile green.
* In the ''DevilMayCry'' 2013 remake, Kat plays with this. She spends weeks preparing the materials used in her magic, and then stuffs them into a spray paint can when they're finished. When her magic is needed, she pulls out the spray paint can and a stencil to create the necessary runes in seconds.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
* In ''Webcomic/GunnerkriggCourt'', the [[spoiler: Donlans']] demon containment and shield magic are accompanied by a labyrinthine pattern of glowing lines.
** And it's a ''computer program''; as magic is sometimes known as the "etheric sciences" in the Gunnerkrigg Court continuity, this makes a certain amount of sense.
* In ''[[http://brokenspacecomic.com Broken Space]]'', spellcasters "drip" glyphs from their hands and bodies when working magic.
* In ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'' [[spoiler:Vaarsuvius's]] [[DealWithTheDevil Deal With The Fiends]] is completed with some InstantRunes and OminousLatinChanting. [[http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0635.html spoilery link]].
* ''NinmuNanmu'' features InstantRunes for some of the spells cast by various characters, [[http://ninmunanmu.com/2010/02/02202010/ as seen here]].
* In the FanWebcomic ''Webcomic/{{Roommates}}'' [[Film/{{Labyrinth}} Goblin King Jareth]] gets instant circles (resembling stylized clocks) when using [[TimeMaster time magic]] in addition to his canonical CrystalBall and [[EverythingsBetterWithSparkles Glitter]].
* In ''Webcomic/TheDragonDoctors'' Mori explains this as using a simple light spell to create instant symbols for RitualMagic. She can take it [[http://dragondoctors.dhscomix.com/archives/comic/ch-18-page-04 a few steps further.]]
* ''Webcomic/{{Blindsprings}}'' uses this in the casting of Academic Magic.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:WebOriginal]]
* ''Machinima/RedVsBlue'' parodied the idea when Lopez activated his weather-control device. Immediately, glowing golden runes encircled him. Turns out that Doc added them as a special effect just because he thought [[RuleOfCool they looked cool]].
* This seems to be averted most of the time in the WhateleyUniverse. Hekate's "fools' circle" trap for Fey took tons of prep time, and she's a really dangerous mage.
* Flint demonstrates some in ''BunnyKill 4''.
* In ''WebAnimation/{{RWBY}}'', Weiss's Semblance manifests itself as [[SteppingStonesInTheSky solid]] runes[[note]]In the shape of her family crest[[/note]] she can cast at will. Because one's Semblance is literally a manifestation of their soul, this makes sense.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:WesternAnimation]]
* ''Comicbook/DoctorStrange'' and company does this in his MarvelComics animated movie.
* Raven of the ''WesternAnimation/TeenTitans'' gets these ''on her skin'' until she lets her father through in the 3-part "The End".
* [[BigBad Dr. Facilier]] from ''ThePrincessAndTheFrog'' flashes voodoo symbols when using his magic.
** The animators avoided using [[TheScottishTrope actual voodoo symbols]] used to summon the loa.
* The assorted ancient robots in Disney's ''AtlantisTheLostEmpire'', when activated, have little light-up runes and glyphs and such.
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